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Piper is 6 and has always been occassionally timid and terrified of loud noises (thunder, fireworks). I've often had problems with her during the summer around this time (May long weekend and Canada Day). I also think we had a really bad storm last week that frightened her during they day. This year it is so much worse and I don't know what to do for her.

It started off with her not wanting to walk after 8pm but has gotten progressively worse. Her morning walk is absolutely fine but she digs in her heels and won't move. Sometimes we make a bit of progress up the street but lately she's having none of it. She's even now getting afraid of being in the back yard. Today I was able to get her to play ball me for a bit but just now she stopped and just stood there and refused to move. This is affecting her bathroom breaks as well - she just won't pee when she is scared. We were out at 7 am and she still hasn't gone yet. I'm positive that over the July 1st weekend she held it from 4 pm until 7 pm the next day because I couldn't get her out.

I don't think it is medical as she had blood work done in May and I have gone through this before - just not as bad.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I am getting very frustrated and upset over the situation and am trying not to give off those vibes to her. I'm trying baby steps and using treats to get her to go up the block and letting her come home as soon as she gets scared. I don't know if that is the right approach but I physically can't force her.

I'm just at a loss and very upset for her.
 

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Sounds in some ways familiar to what Saba does. Or did for a while. Last year after the May long weekend fireworks, he would not go outside after dusk. Same thing, he’d dig in and not move, no matter what I did. The minute his leash was a bit loose, he’d high tail towards the door to get back inside. I understand your frustration. It made me cry because he just looked so scared and I felt like I was unable to help him.

I posted about this on the old board and some people gave me some good advice. I live in an condo building, and we have 3 entrance doors – 2 side and one main. Someone suggested even if he’s scared, try to take him out every evening. No matter what. Then try to go out via different doors – if you have a house, you could try the front door, backyard / patio door or garage. I also always had lots of treats in my pocket to bribe him to move an inch or two, and to show him that night time is ok for walking. Now, at first, he would only make if a few steps, then lie down and not move. I would step only a couple of feet away and tried again to make him move towards me while holding a treat. Sometimes he did it – sometimes he didn’t move too much. It went on from end of May until mid / end of July. But eventually it worked. It got to the point where I had to hold his favourite treats in my hand and every few steps I had to give him one. But at least his whole attention was focused on me and the food, not on the outside surroundings. Eventually his fear went away and we’re fine now. Well, until this past July long weekend fireworks. But I have to say that still – he’s better this year than he was last year.

Don’t give up but just be very very patient and keep trying. I really hope poor Piper will get over it. It’s so upsetting to see them this way.
{{HUGS}}
 

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Thanks for the reply and sharing your experience. I was literally in tears last night as well. I even took her in the car for a drive and tried to walk her when we stopped in a different area - no luck. She finally peed again at 10:30 last night (held from 7:00 am) but only after I was a bit more forceful in the backyard as I could not let her hold it for 24 hours.

I'm starting from scratch - working on the exact same route every single time, giving her treats and trying not to get frustrated. The only problem is when she is really scared she actually turns her nose up to food.

She is still absolutely fine in the mornings and we had a great walk today. She was running up ahead of me, sniffing everything and tail wagging.

I guess I'll just try to keep perservering and do what I can to help her.

Unfortunately they are calling for a thunderstorm today.....
 

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I suggest you pay to get a consult from Patricia McConnell or her group. You have 2 things going on here, (1) an aversion to noise which is (2) also getting generalized to the places the noises are experienced.

This sounds serious to me and while it CAN be treated and overcome, it IS very easy to try well-intentioned remedies that make matters much worse and more difficult to treat.

You need to have someone very skilled helping you in steps along the way.

Basically, the steps in deconditioning a phobia like this are not very complex and are pretty much the same for dogs and for people.

With people, the therapist sets up a situation in which as soon as the anxiety is experienced, the person heads back for a safer place. Then tests it again and retreats. Gradually, with over and over repetitions, when the retreat is under the fearful person's control, the fear gradually lessens and the person is able to get closer and closer, finally extinguishing all of the fear/panic/phobic response.

A difficulty with dogs is in knowing when that first experience of anxiety happens and, also, that the owner can become very frustrated in having to lead the dog so repetitively.

There are CDs of thunderstorms (and probably also fireworks) that can be used, playing them at first VERY softly and then, gradually, as it become tolerated without any visible sign of anxiety, very slightly increased in volume.

But proper therapy steps in something like this are SO easily screwed up and made worse, I strongly advise you to work with someone very well experienced in successfully working through problems like this.

ETA Dr. Patricia McConnell's URL: http://www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com/

 

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The other thing you need to be aware of is your response to your dog when she is acting afraid. If you comfort her she will see that as validation of her fear and it will be reinforced. You will create a self fulfilling cycle of her acting scared, you telling her she has a good reason to be scared and her becoming more scared.

The only thing to do when your dog is acting afraid is to ignore her behavior and act like all is well. Go about your normal routine and keep her with you on a leash. Take her outside on a normal schedule - on a leash.
 

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I definitely don't comfort her in these situations. I've dealt with her fear before (but nowhere near severe as this time) and have always just let her go to her crate or her favorite spot under the desk. She doesn't get pet or anything. I've always tried just to talk to her normally or try to redirect her to play - with varying levels of success.

Is the Patricia McConnel group only in Wisconsin?
 

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You may also need to medicate her to get her to start learning to overcome this. This should be a part of a plan to condition her out of this behavior - but a dog that is so terrified is not capable change. The meds would help.
 

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I can only echo the advise from both Bob and BBD. The dog we had when our kids were young (shelter rescue, mixed) was deathly afraid of loud noises, fireworks, thunder and lightning. She was a mess and we had to work very hard to help her deal with those fears. I feel for you and understand how frustrated you are with the situation. Your vet may be able to give you some meds to help calm her when the sounds are really bad.
 

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I suggest you pay to get a consult from Patricia McConnell or her group. You have 2 things going on here, (1) an aversion to noise which is (2) also getting generalized to the places the noises are experienced.

This sounds serious to me and while it CAN be treated and overcome, it IS very easy to try well-intentioned remedies that make matters much worse and more difficult to treat.

You need to have someone very skilled helping you in steps along the way.

Basically, the steps in deconditioning a phobia like this are not very complex and are pretty much the same for dogs and for people.

With people, the therapist sets up a situation in which as soon as the anxiety is experienced, the person heads back for a safer place. Then tests it again and retreats. Gradually, with over and over repetitions, when the retreat is under the fearful person's control, the fear gradually lessens and the person is able to get closer and closer, finally extinguishing all of the fear/panic/phobic response.

A difficulty with dogs is in knowing when that first experience of anxiety happens and, also, that the owner can become very frustrated in having to lead the dog so repetitively.

There are CDs of thunderstorms (and probably also fireworks) that can be used, playing them at first VERY softly and then, gradually, as it become tolerated without any visible sign of anxiety, very slightly increased in volume.

But proper therapy steps in something like this are SO easily screwed up and made worse, I strongly advise you to work with someone very well experienced in successfully working through problems like this.

ETA Dr. Patricia McConnell's URL: http://www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com/


This is very interesting to me. WOuld this type of 'conditioning' work for a dog that is gun shy. I have to friends, avid hunters, who are so disappointed that each of their dogs is gun shy. They love their dogs and want to hunt with them, but they each tell me that their dogs are so afraid of gunfire, and thunder, and fireworks. I am going to print and give them this post.
 

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Dr. McC's group is in Wisconsin but she gives seminars nationwide. She has on her staff a number of assistants who do phone consultations:

http://www.dogsbestfriendtraining.com/phoneconsultations.html

Since Dr. McC is a certified applied animal behaviorist at the highest level, I'm fairly confident that she'd have ethical, well-trained staff working with her. Or, you might look through this list and see if there's anyone nearby:

http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/certified-applied-animal-behaviorists/

ETA: Oops! Thought that link had a list of members. Try this: http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory
OR
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/9820/behavior.htm

Ed/HK -- have you asked any of the bird hunters on http://forum.justlabradors.com/forumdisplay.php?f=14 ?

A dog's reacting to gun shots has to be a VERY common problem so there must be a variety of ways of handling this.

Back in Bess's younger years, I wanted her to have a taste of fulfilling her life's purpose -- retrieving ducks or geese from the water. I met a guy who hunted ducks and geese and arranged for Bess and I to go hunting with him. Because Bess was sensitive to loud sounds, fireworks, etc., we did some advance training. I bought a starter pistol that shot blanks (it makes a sound about like a ladyfinger exploding).

When Bess and I went out for our daily retrieving session, either I'd sling her training dummy while having her wait for the command to get it, then shoot the pistol, then let her retrieve. Sometimes I'd shoot first, then sling, then have her fetch.

This paired something (the shot) she diliked with something she liked more than anything in the world (retrieving) so she soon adapted.

When she was ready, I contacted my friend and we arranged to meet. Bess and I got up at 4 two cold November mornings, drove 45 miles, got in the boat, got to the blind, and waited for at least 4 hours. Plenty of ducks but none came close enough to shoot the first morning.

Same the second.

When I finally thawed out, I decided that I'd given a sufficiently good faith effort to give Bess a taste of fulfilling the purpose for which her breed was established.


 
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